3D printed firearms
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In 2012, the U.S.-based group Defense Distributed disclosed plans to design a working plastic gun that could be downloaded and reproduced by anybody with a 3D printer." Defense Distributed has also designed a 3D printable AR-15 type rifle lower receiver (capable of lasting more than 650 rounds) and a variety of magazines, including ones for AK-47. Soon after Defense Distributed succeeded in designing the first working blueprint to produce a plastic gun with a 3D printer in May 2013, the United States Department of State demanded that they remove the instructions from their website.
Effect on gun control
After Defense Distributed released their plans, questions were raised regarding the effects that 3D printing and widespread consumer-level CNC machining may have on gun control effectiveness.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center released a memo stating "Significant advances in three-dimensional (3D) printing capabilities, availability of free digital 3D printer files for firearms components, and difficulty regulating file sharing may present public safety risks from unqualified gun seekers who obtain or manufacture 3D printed guns," and that "proposed legislation to ban 3D printing of weapons may deter, but cannot completely prevent their production. Even if the practice is prohibited by new legislation, online distribution of these digital files will be as difficult to control as any other illegally traded music, movie or software files."
Internationally, where gun controls are generally tighter than in the United States, some commentators have said the impact may be more strongly felt, as alternative firearms are not as easily obtainable. European officials have noted that producing a 3D printed gun would be illegal under their gun control laws, and that criminals have access to other sources of weapons, but noted that as the technology improved the risks of an effect would increase. Downloads of the plans from the UK, Germany, Spain, and Brazil were heavy.
Attempting to restrict the distribution over the Internet of gun plans has been likened to the futility of preventing the widespread distribution of DeCSS which enabled DVD ripping. After the US government had Defense Distributed take down the plans, they were still widely available via The Pirate Bay and other file sharing sites. Some US legislators have proposed regulations on 3D printers, to prevent them being used for printing guns. 3D printing advocates have suggested that such regulations would be futile, could cripple the 3D printing industry, and could infringe on free speech rights.
In Australia, the state law of New South Wales criminalizes the possession of the digital plans and files to 3D print firearms under Section 51F of the Firearms Act 1996. In at least one instance, a loaded 3D printed firearm was found during a police raid on a meth lab.
In the United Kingdom, the Firearms Act 1968 bans the manufacturing of guns and gun parts without government approval. Hence, 3D printed weapons are de facto banned because the law makes bans all manufacturing, regardless of method. However, the Home Office updated its Guide on Firearms Licensing Law to specifically mention the ban on 3D printed weapons. In 2013, a police raid on a Manchester gang resulted in seizures in what are believed to be 3D printed gun parts. The Greater Manchester police believe they found a trigger and a magazine along with a quantity of gunpowder.
Under the Undetectable Firearms Act any firearm that cannot be detected by a metal detector is illegal to manufacture, so legal designs for firearms such as the Liberator require a metal plate to be inserted into the printed body. The act had a sunset provision to expire December 9, 2013. Senator Charles Schumer proposed renewing the law, and expanding the type of guns that would be prohibited. Proposed renewals and expansions of the current Undetectable Firearms Act (H.R. 1474, S. 1149) include provisions to criminalize individual production of firearm receivers and magazines that do not include arbitrary amounts of metal, measures outside the scope of the original UFA and not extended to cover commercial manufacture.
On December 3, 2013, the United States House of Representatives passed the bill To extend the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 for 10 years (H.R. 3626; 113th Congress). The bill extended the Act, but did not change any of the law's provisions.
In Japan, in May 2014, Yoshitomo Imura was the first person to be arrested for possessing printed guns. Imura had five guns, two of which were capable of being fired, but had no ammunition. Imura had previously posted blueprints and video of his guns to the Internet, which set off the investigation.
- 3D printing
- Defense Distributed
- Ghost gun
- Gun control
- Gun politics in the United States
- Improvised firearm
- List of 3D printed weapons and parts
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